They’ve sledged, raised eyebrows and even levelled vitriolic criticism against their opponents but they never did something so outrageous as to be directly affecting a principal element of the game: the Test ball. It’s not just a red cherry. It’s the vital component that determines and guides, produces and excites an all-encompassing contest for a period of 5 days.
If there was one thing that the Australians hadn’t done thus far, they did it this time. Moreover, against a side like South Africa, one that prides itself on playing cricket whole-heartedly. Considering that Rabada’s fuming anger and explosive all-field antics only presented his inexperienced nature, Australians have clearly gone a yard ahead. So what Australia have done by applying an unwarranted, unexpected foreign substance with which to tamper the ball- is something that’s clearly uncalled for.
O dear, what have you done Australia?
It’s not done. It’s the sort of thing that school-grade cricketers resort to when they forcefully want a result from a contest that seems to be getting out of their reach. And the way AB De Villiers has been batting, with Dean Elgar being at his gritty best, it seems like that way.
But all that is said and done, this has resulted in Steve Smith- one of the modern day giants of the game- generating attention, not for the best reason possible. In Smith, Australia is fortunate to have a dashing player; a rising legend. He’s someone who is constantly put against arguably the best bat in the world- Virat Kohli. We know Kohli’s aggression. His anger hasn’t remained hidden from the public spotlight.
What Smith’s absence in next test entails?
But it ought to be said, despite having shown in the past, signs of immaturity, Kohli hasn’t stooped to the extent Smith’s men have. Earlier in the series, there was no dearth of fiery expletives exchanged between David Warner and de Kock. This was followed by the Rabada episode. Not that captains on either side- Faf and Smith himself- weren’t aware of the kind of backlash these episodes had generated in the realm of public reaction. And now, what do we have here- a strange ball-tampering episode which has hurt the Australian captain in not one but three ravaging ways.
- The ICC have handed a one-match suspension to Steven Smith as a result of the ill-fated episode that had Cameron Bancroft and not Smith as the wrongdoer. But that said, it remains to be seen if Smith, as captain and player was aware of the kind of repercussions that such an unfound action would warrant.
- Secondly, Smith won’t be completing the rest of this Test in a leadership capacity. This effectively means, Australia are on the field minus a leader figure. On the fourth day of the third Test at Cape Town, Smith fielded next to Paine, but not as the captain.
- Thirdly, Steve Smith isn’t alone in the abdication of captaincy for the remainder of the series. There’s David Warner who has stepped down as the vice-captain of the team.
When you attempt to put your head into the situation you understand that experienced and seasoned campaigners of an incredibly talented unit are at the receiving end of an episode that they didn’t mastermind. This, therefore, highlights the kind of amateurism that is throbbing cricket Down Under.
Things aren’t going to get easy for Australia
There’s hardly a doubt that Smith bats with the élan of a champion. He puts the team ahead of him, as he did even at the press conference when he accepted that the actions of his team-mate weren’t in the best interest of the side. But this has, anyways, dealt a severe blow to the reputation of an outstanding batsman, someone who goes the extra mile to save his side from onslaughts.
Here’s why. In what will most definitely be Morne’s last ever Test appearance, Morkel would be raring to add a few scalps to his 300 wicket stack. Australia are therefore going to be against a mighty challenge on a tricky surface at Jo’burg. And they will be sans their best batsman- Steve Smith. Maybe after this unwarranted episode, the team will gather around and regroup together. And will hopefully stick to what was promised at the rather gloomy media conference at Cape Town: that such episodes won’t ever recur where Australians are concerned.
In the end, it isn’t always that the CEO of Cricket Australia is compelled to state to a probing media on accounts of incidences like these that, “It’s truly a sad day for Australian Cricket.” Hope Smith and importantly Cameron Bancroft can hear this and take it to their heart and emerge better.